ICC targets £125m economic boom from conferences this year

BELFAST'S ICC centre is targeting £125 million in economic impact over its next financial year as a result of the conferences and events it has lined up.

Julia Corkey, chief executive of ICC Belfast, Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall, set the mark as the ICC kicked off its first in-person conference since 2019, with 1,000 delegates due over the four days of the Microbiology Society Conference.

And further events in May and June - including the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language Conference and the Intensive Care Society State of the Art Congress - will be worth about £5 million alone to the city's business tourism infrastructure.

Figures by Cities Restart show that spending on international conferences and business events for the UK, which was worth £19.4bn in 2019, is expected to soar by 43 per cent to £27.6bn by 2026.

International conferences and business events are seen as vital to restarting city economies, with research showing that in 2019 the average international delegate was worth £864, whereas the value of an average domestic delegate was £154, which by 2026 is expected to grow to £1,078 and £180 respectively.

The Microbiology Society event has been supported by the Belfast and Northern Ireland Conference Support Scheme, which is funded by Belfast City Council and Tourism NI and is administered by Visit Belfast.

It provides support to eligible associations to host conference and meetings in Belfast and Northern Ireland and further enhance the profile of the region as a business events destination.

A new integrated strategy for business events was launched in March which seeks to double the number of international conferences hosted annually in the north and attract three times the number of delegates from the UK and Ireland by 2030.

And it estimates that the business events sector in Northern Ireland could generate an additional £209 million in direct economic impact and up to 2000 new jobs by 2030.

Ms Corkey said: “We're delighted to be hosting the Microbiology Society this week, with over 1,000 delegates and 24 exhibitors from across the UK and Europe kicking off a packed programme of business events for the rest of 2022/23.

“Our world-class ICC venue is specifically designed to attract and accommodate national and international business events, and as such is integral to the delivery of the recently launched integrated strategy for business events.

“When we bring these events to our venues, we take real pride in the fact that the economic impact will be felt throughout Belfast and Northern Ireland.”

Business events attract high spending visitors throughout the year and play an important role in a balanced tourism portfolio. Indeed conferences, meetings and business events generated £37 million of direct expenditure for the north's economy in 2019, the last year for which full statistics are available.

Microbiology Society chief executive Dr Peter Cotgreave said: “Following the spotlight that has been thrown on microbiology by the pandemic, it’s wonderful to be back in Belfast for our annual conference, which will enable new collaborations and the development of research which has the power to change lives.”

Despite the challenges of the last two years, the ICC Belfast team continued to diversify and deliver immersive experiences and innovative hybrid events, including a launch for STATSports and announcing the One Young World Summit, ahead of its 2023 arrival to Belfast.